Cycling cul­ture in Oulu was shock­ing at first, but now Tama­ra Louis is bik­ing every­where

Tama­ra Louis, 30, is an archi­tec­tur­al design­er liv­ing in Oulu and work­ing at Uki Archi­tects. She came to Oulu from Rus­sia in Sep­tem­ber 2012. She has a dou­ble degree in Civ­il Engi­neer­ing and is study­ing Archi­tec­ture. Oulu Tal­ent Hub inter­viewed Tama­ra Louis about her thoughts on liv­ing and work­ing in Oulu.

What do you think about Oulu?

My first impres­sions about Oulu were very dif­fer­ent from how I expe­ri­ence the city now. Prob­a­bly because I have myself changed a lot too as well as Oulu. The first shock was when I saw peo­ple bik­ing all the time. Peo­ple bike here in Oulu every­where: to work, school and even par­ties. It was weird. It doesn´t mat­ter how old you are, or what your sta­tus is, every­one is bik­ing.

I was a girl from Rus­sia, where at that time bikes were just equal to a sport, not to trans­porta­tion. In the begin­ning, I said that I will nev­er bike like oth­ers. But soon enough I changed my mind up until now I con­tin­ue bik­ing all the time, even in the win­ter.

Anoth­er cul­ture shock was at the uni­ver­si­ty, when I found out that in Fin­land we always address to oth­ers even strangers or old­er peo­ple with “sinä” (= singular/informal you). In Rus­sia, the cul­ture is tru­ly dif­fer­ent and respect­ful­ly we should call new peo­ple as well old­er and even just col­leagues with “Te “ (= for­mal You).

It may seem like a small dif­fer­ence but believe it or not, it does take time for adjust­ment. I think it is rep­re­sent­ing equal­i­ty and a small hier­ar­chy over­all in Finnish cul­ture and an infor­mal way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Wear­ing woolen socks with­out shoes at the office and uni­ver­si­ty is part of this relaxed way of life, and I must say I do enjoy it.

What do you think about the work­ing life in Oulu?

What I real­ly like is the work sched­ule here. Many offices start the day at 8 a.m. and fin­ish it at 4 p.m., which allows employ­ees to have space for fam­i­ly and hob­bies. Because the dis­tances in Oulu are not so big, you don’t have to spend that much time on the road. I appre­ci­ate this a lot.

It is also val­ued, that you have free time and the pos­si­bil­i­ty to recov­er from work stress and so on. To do that, many com­pa­nies try to endorse those activ­i­ties with dif­fer­ent kinds of bonus sys­tems. For exam­ple, the com­pa­ny, I work at, gives employ­ees twice a year a spe­cial bonus card with a cer­tain sum, which you may use only for cul­tur­al, sports or mas­sage activ­i­ties.

Tama­ra Louis became a bik­er in Oulu.

Orig­i­nal­ly the main rea­son for mov­ing to Fin­land was a rela­tion­ship mat­ter. Com­ple­ment­ing my Russ­ian Diplo­ma with Euro­pean Degree seemed to be a good option to start a life in a new coun­try, so I have applied to study here.

I have noticed quite soon that I like liv­ing in Oulu, so I decid­ed to stay. To be hon­est I have almost left back to my home coun­try because it was quite hard for me to get a job in Fin­land as a for­eign­er, when I just arrived as I didn’t speak Finnish at all. I must admit, it was kind of depress­ing not to be able to get any job, while you have a decent degree.

At the same time, while I was search­ing for jobs in Oulu, I applied for a few posi­tions in Rus­sia – and voilá – I was invit­ed for inter­views to all of them. Here, in Oulu, most of the time, prob­a­bly 99 % of the com­pa­nies were not even respond­ing to my appli­ca­tions.

You may imag­ine my feel­ings: to pack my stuff and go back home and build a career, where I could have at least an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do it. Well, as you can guess, I didn´t leave in the end. I kept search­ing for open posi­tions across the inter­net. I was apply­ing again and again, and actu­al­ly, I did get one inter­view in the aca­d­e­m­ic field in Helsin­ki, but it didn´t work out either – luck­i­ly.

How to get a job in Oulu?

As a tip for job seek­ers, if you don´t get any­thing through vacan­cies web­sites, try to go to the web­page of Business­Oulu, where you can get a list­ing of com­pa­nies accord­ing to their cat­e­go­ry. There I found lots of civ­il engi­neer­ing and archi­tec­ture com­pa­nies and I have start­ed to send open appli­ca­tions to many of them.

Though my degree is in Civ­il Engi­neer­ing, I was pas­sion­ate about Archi­tec­ture, so I tried to enter this field too. To a big sur­prise, I got a reply from Uki Archi­tects, which was on top of my list of inter­est, and I start­ed my intern­ship soon after.

After the intern­ship peri­od I had a small break due to per­son­al issues and I came back again there for a year con­tract. After my next break on mater­ni­ty leave, I came back for a per­ma­nent posi­tion there again.

Nowa­days I look back at the times when I couldn’t get jobs any­where else and I am glad it went this way. I feel myself real­ly lucky to get exact­ly in this com­pa­ny, where I am now. I love the office and we have a won­der­ful and friend­ly atmos­phere.

Oulu is a per­fect envi­ron­ment for fam­i­lies, says Tama­ra Louis.

My col­leagues are very sup­port­ive and had the patience to help me to learn Finnish lan­guage, while they could eas­i­ly switch to Eng­lish. Step by step I start­ed to get more respon­si­ble tasks and now I already lead some projects. Also this year I have start­ed study­ing Archi­tec­ture to grow pro­fes­sion­al­ly out of Engi­neer and get even more inter­est­ing tasks in the future.

All in all, if you would like to come and live in Oulu, you have to search for employ­ers and com­pa­nies in your field on the inter­net and social media. Even if they don’t have open posi­tions, you can always send an open appli­ca­tion to show that you are moti­vat­ed, just like I did. I guess my key to suc­cess, in the end, was high moti­va­tion for that exact com­pa­ny too, I knew what projects they were doing and they matched my inter­est.

Even if you don’t speak Finnish, it is good to show you are eager to learn it – even if the com­pa­ny com­mu­ni­cates in Eng­lish. As I men­tioned ear­li­er, when I came to Oulu, I could not speak even one word in Finnish.

How to get into the Finnish lifestyle?

One of the pos­i­tive sides of Oulu is that the city is very close to the nature. You don’t need to trav­el much to get to the for­est. I have just a few hun­dred meters to walk to the near­est lit­tle for­est.

Oulu and Fin­land over­all pro­vide a vari­ety of nature activ­i­ties and sports oppor­tu­ni­ties. I have start­ed trail run­ning, which is a big part of my life now.

In my opin­ion, Oulu is a per­fect envi­ron­ment for fam­i­lies, as well for inter­na­tion­al ones too. I have a five-year-old daugh­ter and I am hap­py to feel she is not con­sid­ered as a for­eign­er. Her mul­ti­cul­tur­al back­ground is tak­en most pos­i­tive­ly.

She is a mul­ti­lin­gual child and going to the munic­i­pal day­care is not a prob­lem at all. While none of us par­ents speak Finnish to her, she learned the lan­guage at the day care with a good sup­port from her teach­ers there. I have heard sim­i­lar feed­back from my friends who have a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as us.

Here you can eas­i­ly inte­grate into the soci­ety if you want to. Here are dif­fer­ent clubs and com­mu­ni­ties, for exam­ple, I am par­tic­i­pat­ing in Junior Cham­ber Inter­na­tion­al, which gives oppor­tu­ni­ties to meet new peo­ple and devel­op per­son­al and work life skills.

The whole year round there are some nice fes­ti­vals and inter­est­ing events in Oulu, one of them is a unique event – the Air Gui­tar World Cham­pi­onships.

Tama­ra Louis tells her sto­ry on a video:

Oulu Tal­ent Hub

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